- Critical success factors (CSFs) are those things that must be done correctly for a project to be successful; however, CSFs are not sufficient by themselves to guarantee success. CSFs, as identified in the literature, vary from study to study. In addition, previous studies have not typically included contextual details for the projects studied. As a result, it is difficult to know how the particulars of a project impact (or not) CSFs. Researchers have suggested that CSFs can be affected by contextual details. Knowledge about the effect of contextual factors on CSFs would allow organizational leaders and project managers to more effectively use resources to achieve project success.
Enterprise system implementation projects have exhibited high failure rates. Both Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Electronic Health Record (EHR) system
implementations have proven to be challenging for organizations. For enterprise system implementation projects, a variety of contextual factors may be important. Examples of contextual factors include the number of software modules implemented, the number of sites undergoing implementation, the geographic dispersion of the sites, the number of people in the organization, and the percentage of personnel in the organization whose daily tasks are disrupted by the new enterprise system.
This research was designed to shed light on the role of contextual factors on CSFs for enterprise system implementation projects. A survey was created to evaluate the effects of contextual factors on CSF ratings. The survey included questions related to 17 CSFs, 14 of the CSFs included in the study have been well-cited in the project management literature. Three additional CSFs were also included in the study to capture important elements of change management, which more recent studies have shown to be relevant to enterprise system implementations. The survey included questions related to eight contextual variables for ERP projects and 11 contextual variables for EHR system projects.
The research focused on small to medium-size organizations, which have been less studied than larger organizations. The target respondents for the survey were enterprise system (ERP or EHR) project managers from software companies or consulting firms and government project managers whose implementation projects were within six months
of completion. Data were collected on 17 ERP projects and 26 EHR system implementation projects in 43 different organizations.
The survey data and subsequent analyses provided evidence that EHR system implementation projects are impacted by contextual factors. The results for the ERP implementations are not conclusive. The results suggest that contextual factors should be taken into consideration when determining how best to manage enterprise system implementations. In addition, the results of this research did not support previous research findings, which indicated that similar CSFs exist for ERP and EHR system projects. CSFs were found to vary substantially in a number of key areas, especially with respect to training. The User Training and Support CSF for the ERP projects included in this study was rated less important than prior research results suggest (Finney & Corbett, 2007). One of two CSFs included in the survey to capture change management requirements, Early Adopter/Super-user, was found to be an important CSF for the ERP projects included in this study.
The EHR system projects were found to be affected by contextual factors, with nine different instances of significant relationships identified between individual CSFs and one or more contextual factor. Eight of the 17 CSFs for the EHR system implementation projects in this study were affected by contextual factors. Contextual factors impacted the ERP and EHR system implementations quite differently, suggesting that more research is needed to better understand the phenomenon leading to these differences.
The findings from this research can be used by organizational leaders and project managers to more effectively achieve project success. These results provide project managers and organizational leaders in small and medium-size organizations with a much deeper and relevant understanding of the factors that are most important to manage in successfully implementing either ERP or EHR system projects. As this study focused on small and medium-size organizations and both ERP and EHR system implementation projects, the findings are relevant across a wide range of organizations. As smaller organizations have not typically been the focus of CSF research, this study makes an important contribution to the understanding of CSFs for both ERP and EHR system implementation projects.
More generally, this research also expands the broader body of knowledge on the identification of CSFs, as this study has provided empirical evidence for the important role played by contextual factors. Every project is carried out within a broader organizational setting. This broader organizational setting appears, based on the results of this study, to have a strong effect on the importance of CSFs for each specific project and as such, may explain some of the seemingly contradictory findings related to CSFs in the existing literature. While further research is needed to understand the means by which contextual factors impact CSFs, this study has provided a significant contribution in validating the relationship between contextual factors and CSFs for a broad range of enterprise system projects in a wide range of industries.